Sermon for 5 Epiphany Yr C, 8/02/2004
Based on Lk 5:1-11
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church &
Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Marti Guixe is homeless—unless you call the world his home.
Actually, let me revise that. The 36-year-old design consultant has two homes, but he doesn’t live in them much. One is in Barcelona and another is in Berlin, where he shares a flat with a friend whenever he’s in town.
Marti’s work doesn’t require that he be located in a bricks-and-mortar office building, tethered to a desk from 9 to 5 every day. He is free to leave everything and follow the instincts of his considerable wanderlust—to come and go as he pleases, and this suits him just fine.
His internet website is his office. When he travels, he doesn’t carry a computer. His business card lists no home address, no phone number. Just a web address. You may find him in London to help design a Spanish footwear store (display shoes are Velcroed to the walls), or Milan where guests at the store are invited to write graffiti on the walls.
As a wanderer, Guixe has developed a set of rules for the road. For example, carry nothing, he says. Knowledge is available everywhere; you don’t even need a computer. The only thing you really need to take is yourself and your ideas.
Don’t think of yourself as away from home, he says. Anywhere can be home if you have the right attitude about it. You can’t say, “Well, there is a plot of land with a wooden structure on it at the corner of such and such and that is my home.” How odd to think of a material place as “home.” A few years ago, we needed a physical base with a phone line, street address, a mailbox, in order to receive information. Not anymore. So when you travel, you’re not really travelling and leaving “home”—you’re simply moving; you are at home.
One more thing: approach and flirt. Guixe likes to interact with strangers when he’s “moving” about the world. People who love to travel generally do so to gain more knowledge about different cultures. The best way to do this is to talk to people. He suggests flirting—not in a physical way, but engaging people in light banter, talking to people in a relaxed and playful way. Such experiences will help you learn more about the region through which you’re moving—better for you to enjoy or do business.
Of course, it is easier to leave everything and follow your bliss today than ten years ago—although even for a new millennium nomad wannabe such as myself, there would be considerable shuffling of affairs before I could actually pull it off. But to leave home and hearth 2,000 years ago, and follow a Galilean itinerant preacher was, in the eyes of many, reckless folly.
Jesus, like Guixe, had some rules for the road that he would later share with his friends. But for now, it was enough that their faith was strong enough to leave their boats—their offices—and follow Jesus. 1
Do the words of our gospel today “catch” you? Do they tug at your heart? Do they leave you wishing you were one of those first disciples of Jesus? Do you wish you, like them, and like Marti Guixe in the story could LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND AND FOLLOW JESUS? Or do these words of our gospel disturb us and cause us to want to run away because they are just too threatening to our real, everyday lives? We maybe question Jesus and say something like: “WHO ME? ME LEAVE EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW JESUS AND TO CATCH PEOPLE?! OH NO, LORD! YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG PERSON! HELP! LET ME OUT OF HERE! OH NO! NOT ME! AFTER ALL, I LIKE MY LIFESTYLE; I LIKE ALL OF MY STUFF; IT ALL MAKES ME FEEL COMFORTABLE AND REMINDS ME AND OTHERS OF HOW SUCCESSFUL I’VE BEEN IN LIFE—DOESN’T IT?
And yet, those words of Jesus “follow me” will not go away. They keep pestering us and nagging us to no end. And the lifestyle of the disciples doesn’t help any either—what with their leaving everything and following Jesus! Surely I can’t do that! Surely that’s only some idealistic, romantic dream, isn’t it? Surely that is at best to be interpreted as “hyperbole,” isn’t it? Surely in our time and place Jesus doesn’t call us like that or expect us to LEAVE ALL, does he? And yet, there are those like Alan Watts who have said today: “You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.” Hummmmm… Maybe Jesus does call us to look at life differently than mainstream culture. Maybe our lifestyle of “more is never enough” isn’t actually enough. Maybe our materialistic obsessions are harmful and wrong. Maybe I am not merely what I possess.
I am what I own. That is what we have been told—that our worth is measured by the value of our possessions. This makes getting things more important than serving people.
I am what I want. That is another line. We hear it all around. “Be number one.” “Be self-realized.” “If it feels good, do it.” You deserve the best.” “Love yourself the most.”
Or, I am what I use. That is what the commercials tell us. Toothpaste gives us sex appeal. Soft drinks make us come alive. Sports cars change us into lovers. We are told to buy cars that are powerful if we want to, because that is how we can tell who we really are. Self assertion comes by what we use.
However, add using to wanting and owning, then multiply that by millions of people, and it can mean a lot of greed. Besides destroying the character of the people of our countries, this way of life can use up too much of the world’s resources.
Maybe we don’t need a lot of things to be somebody. Maybe we’ve been misled. Maybe God has a different way for us. Jesus ( and his first disciples) had a different way.
Jesus…fed the hungry, healed the diseased, freed the oppressed, and was killed. He gave up his life for us. He makes us somebody in our baptism.
Because we are somebody already without all the wanting and getting and using, we can be less afraid of losing some of the things that were supposed to make us important. That attitude can change our view of the world. 2
We, like the disciples, can re-prioritize our life by valuing loving service of others in Jesus’s name more than we value our materialistic lifestyle. Benjamin Disraeli once commented that “the secret of success in life is for a (person) to be ready for her/his opportunity when it comes.” Whilst Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “no great (hu)man (being) ever complains of lack of opportunity.” South African writer, Alan Paton once said: “no one is too weak, too vile, too unimportant, to be God’s instrument.” The hymnwriter, John Keble, advised anyone overcome by feelings of melancholy or self-pity to “go out and do something kind to someone or other.” The beauty of this is that it more often than not blesses the person who gives equally as much as the one who receives. In giving of our time, talents and treasures, we, like the first disciples, shall ironically, discover the UNLIMITED ABUNDANCE of Jesus—just as there were an abundance of fish for the disciples, there will be an abundance of blessings for us too; blessing enough and more for everyone! Amen.
1 Cited from: Timothy F. Merrill, Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit: Series IV, Cycle C (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Co., Inc., 2003), pp. 35-36.
2 Cited from: “I am what I own,” An “Understanding Hunger” publication by the Division for Parish Services on behalf of the LCA World Hunger Appeal.